It’s summertime (which generally lasts from May to October around these parts) and the water is plenty warm. Warm water is good, because warm water brings big fish. There are no bad months for local fishing, but this has to be my favorite time of year.
Tarpon season is here and it’s going really well, and there are lots of big sharks to be caught if you’re into that kind of thing. But what about the inshore fishing for smaller gamefish? Snook, redfish and trout get a lot less pressure this time of the year because it seems like everyone is chasing tarpon and sharks.
Fewer people trying to catch inshore fish and fewer boats running over top of them means the reds, snook and trout are going to eat a lot better. It also means less competition for the best spots. Sometimes I’ll go all day without another boat coming within a quarter-mile of us while we’re fishing. On our crowded Harbor, that’s saying something.
With the weather getting hotter and water warming up, the fish are going to look for cooler areas. If you’re outdoors on a hot, sunny day, you want to be in the shade because its going to be cooler than sitting in the sun. What makes you think a fish is any different?
Redfish and snook don’t have Bimini tops or big floppy hats, so they go up underneath the mangroves. Not only is it cooler there, but it’s also a great ambush spot for them too. Lots of small fish, crabs and shrimp use the mangrove roots as cover. They’re all potential food for our gamefish.
Not every mangrove is going to hold fish. I’ll take some time to look for the bigger, healthier mangroves — more shade, more ambush points, more likely to have fish. If there are other things nearby that might attract fish (pockets of deeper water, healthy seagrass, creek mouths, etc.), that’s even better.
There are lots of different things you can throw to fish under the trees, but if it’s me fishing them, I’m going to use greenbacks, pinfish or shrimp. If it’s greenbacks, I’ll add a float 18 to 24 inches above the bait, mainly so I can see where it is at all times. With pinfish, I like to cut their tails to slow them down a little bit, then maybe add a splitshot.
If you’re getting your bait from the tackle shop, shrimp are the way to go. I always put them on a jighead because they naturally live on the bottom, so that’s where I want my shrimp to be. I use jigheads with built-in rattles in them, so when I bounce that shrimp it makes a little noise too.
Trout are a little different than reds and snook. They don’t usually like being in constricted areas like under mangrove roots, so to find cooler water, they usually go deep instead. Look for deeper cuts on the flats, grass in 5 to 7 feet of water, or along the outer edges of the bar.
You can throw shrimp for trout, but I like to throw DOA CAL shad for them (again, with a rattling jighead). I can cover a lot of water by throwing the soft plastic baits, which is great when I’m trying to figure out exactly where those fish are. If you find a group of them, you can try shrimp in that spot.
I love to catch tarpon and sharks, but I’m also making some time for inshore fishing too. This can be a great time of the year for that type of fishing, and I’d rather do that by myself than fight the crowds trying to catch tarpon.
Capt. Karl Butigian lives, breathes and eats Florida fishing. He owns and operates KB Back Country Charters (KBBackCountryChartersFishing.com) on the waters of Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. To book a trip or for info, call him at 941-565-7325.